We Drivers was released as part of an industry-wide safety campaign throughout the Thirties. Two years earlier, in 1934, the first driver training courses began in American schools, and the film was no doubt made to be shown to pioneering driver ed students. In 1936, the Automotive Safety Foundation was organized, funded jointly by car manufacturers, tire companies, the oil industry and insurance firms. As Ed Cray put it in Chrome Colossus: General Motors and Its Times (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980), "the foundation deflected criticism from the vehicle itself...". The Foundation lobbied for more and better roads, promoted mandatory state motor vehicle inspections (blaming accidents on motorists keeping their vehicles in poor mechanical condition), but ignored the design defects of automobiles.
Of 55 films distributed by the General Motors Film Library, We Drivers was the most popular. This, the first version, was shown in 7,000 theaters over ten months in 1936-37 and also seen by 24 million people in schools, institutions and community groups. Its technical complexity (including photography of models, full animation, animation over real photography, and technical animation, all in early three-strip Technicolor) necessitated an eleven-month production schedule. Later, it was remade at least four more times to update the look of the cars seen in every scene. A short booklet, also called We Drivers, was also made available by GM for "the safety, comfort and pleasure of the motoring public."
The strategy that We Drivers chooses to employ dramatizes safe vs. unsafe behavior as a struggle for good and evil within the mind of the all-too-human driver. In eight sequences, the animated characters "Reckless Rudolph" and "Sensible Sam", an earlier incarnation of the right path/wrong path "Goofus and Gallant", fight to outdo each other, interacting in the same frame as their host. The one-reeler ends with a boxing match: Sam K.O.'s Rudy, and the referee's long count becomes a recitation of short and sweet maxims, ending with an admonition to "Obey all laws!" Like the print advertising of the 1930s, often tending towards tabloid-type headlines and copy designed to grab readers who were defecting to the radio, this film filters its complex message through ten patronizing slogans. In the end this entertaining film, on the surface designed to teach self-control, becomes an instance of mind control.
Contents. An appeal for safe driving practices.
Opens with an animation of a prize fight between two cartoon characters, Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam. In the scenes that follow, the figures of Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam are superimposed on views of a real driver. Reckless Rudolph offers bad counsel, and Sensible Sam counteracts it with his good advice. A driver passes a car and almost collides with an oncoming vehicle. The commentator says that passing a car at 40 miles per hour is like passing 18 cars parked bumper to bumper and urges that drivers make sure they have sufficient clearance before passing. A giant character, Old Man Momentum, is introduced to symbolize the need for slackening speed at turns and descending hills in a lower gear. An airplane following a car around a curved speedway illustrates the need for banking roads to overcome centrifugal force.
A sequence on night driving is introduced by views of a man driving at high speed at night. Lights are dimmed in meeting cars. An animated diagram explains the term "overdriving your light." After a sleepy driver nearly collides with a parked truck, Sensible Sam prevails upon him to stop for the night. Need for special precautions under conditions of unusually low visibility is illustrated. In a fog a good driver reduces his speed, dims his lights, sounds his horn periodically, and keeps close to the right side of the road.
The commentator says that friction is an enemy of most moving parts of the automobile, but that it is necessary for stopping and starting. Sensible Sam cautiously feels his way along an icy sidewalk while Reckless Rudolph, proceeding carelessly, falls. A driver demonstrates "easy braking" in engaging the clutch in icy weather.
The significance of traffic signs is demonstrated by views of signs, each of which dissolves to an animated diagram of the situation it denotes. A motorist slows down on seeing a school-crossing sign and is able to avoid hitting a tardy child who dashes across his path. After the commentator says that the driver must never try to predict what the "other fellow" is about to do, a pedestrian walks out from between parked cars, is nearly hit, and is about to protest vigorously when he notices that he is driving the car himself. Animated diagrams explain the term "margin of safety." A daydreaming driver nearly collides with a car ahead.
The scene returns to the prize fight as Sensible Sam knocks out Reckless Rudolph. The referee enumerates ten safety rules.
Appraisal. Reported very good for illustrating safe driving practices. Found useful in giving students an appreciation of the automobile driver's responsibilities.
Teachers reported that the animated figures representing man's dual personality were very effective, and many students reported that they liked this type of presentation.
Photography is excellent, sound good.
Ken Smith sez: Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam, color cartoon characters, "represent the duel personalities in us all." They portray the bad and good consciences of a typical driver (they call him "boss"). Reckless seems intent on killing the poor guy with bad advice, while Sensible prefers to nag him like a nervous mother-in-law. This visually innovative film features beautiful color animation, a hairy, double-exposure giant ("Old Man Mountain Momentum") who pushes cars around, and one scene where the driver yells at himself in seamless split photography. Winner of the 1936 first place award from the National Safety Council. Definitely the most entertaining version of this film. At least three others were made -- in 1951, 1955, and 1962.
animated sequence of boxing match between "Reckless Rudolph" and "Sensible Sam" animated characters, representing evil and good respectively. Throughout the film, Rudolph tries to trap the human driver into an accident; Sam warns him so as to avert accidents.
over the shoulder shot of man driving down road in 1935 or 1936 General Motors automobile, car in front of him. Figure of tall, skinny man appears in left hand corner, he then fades away, different one now appears on right hand side of drivers head; shot of what is behind the car from drivers point of view, figure of little animated man on right speaking, figure of little man on the left speaking, driver begins to pass car in front of him.
car passing another car from passing car's point of view, car is passing while another is coming directly at it from other direction, they almost crash into each other.
high shot of dirt road.
car passing another car, 18 cars lined up as car passes them. (This half-animated, half-live action diagram shows amount of distance necessary for safe passing on two-lane highways.)
car driving down street, up a hill.
busy street intersection
rear view of cars driving down road, car passing two other cars.
LS car driving down road
car driving down road, trees along right hand side of road.
man driving car - over the shoulder shot - white, superimposed figure of cartoon man appears on each side of drivers head, whispering something into drivers ear. This character is called "Old Man Mountain Momentum."
car goes around a curve to fast almost hitting fence.
high shot - car driving down road in lower left hand corner, right hand side of picture contains large (superimposed) man looking down at car, giant man places hand on roof of car, then both hands pushing car down hill.
car driving around proving ground test track with airplane plane over head.
car driving through intersection almost hitting another car.
CU man shifting gears
LS of car driving up hill, man walking up hill in BG.
over shoulder shot, driver going down hill, white cartoon figures appear again.
shot out back window of car from drivers point of view, large face of giant man in window.
driver shifting car
house on hill
car driving down hill
over shoulder shot man driving at night; he is very tired.
CU of speedometer that reads 55 mph, speed moving up.
over shoulder shot of man driving, head lights can be seen coming in other direction.
CU man pressing down on gas pedal
CU of speedometer that reads 70 mph
CU of white cartoon figure behind drivers head, other one appears also after other has left, driver continues to drive ahead in dark, white cartoon figure is speaking to him, figure pulls out stick, waves it, darkness than becomes daytime; disabled truck in roadway with driver waving down car is seen, then picture becomes night again.
seven lines appear on screen, light begins to appear to right.
profile of man driving car.
man pressing on gas pedal
profile of man driving
man pressing on brake
small cars driving down track
over shoulder shot of man driving, night time, drawing of saw cutting wood over his head.
CU of clock that reads 1:50 am
sign that reads "Motorists get a good night sleep"
man sleeping in bed, white cartoon figure is also sleeping in right hand corner.
other white cartoon figure walking on head board.
white cartoon man in bed yawning
car driving at camera through foggy weather.
buoy floating in water
airplane flying through fog
ship sailing through fog
plane landing in foggy weather
train going through fog
conductor watching out side of train, pulling on horn
darkness, headlights shining at camera
over shoulder shot, windshield wipers are working, white cartoon figures also appear.
front window of car from drivers point of view, he dims lights to help see better in fog.
CU of steering wheel, white cartoon figure sitting in center on horn.
MS back of car, white cartoon figure appears in back window.
Tire, picture is very dark
line of cars driving toward camera, picture is titled from top left hand corner to bottom right hand corner.
moving parts in car engine
CU car left front bumper, car has Florida license plate.
CU stopped car in intersection, crossing guard in upper left hand corner, license plate reads 3T 833, car drives up almost hitting already stopped car.
high angle car speeding down road turning a corner
MCU front half of car driving down road.
cars driving down road in snow storm.
CU tire on snowy road
snow on ground, feet can be seen walking through top of picture on path, white cartoon figures also appear. Feet walk off right side of picture, one white figure walks off screen, other white figure slides across top of screen falling down.
CU foot pressing on brake
CU tire coming to stop
CU feet operating car
CU of tire beginning to move
cars driving down city street
traffic sign, in color, curving road ahead (This sequence shows in Technicolor animation what common road warning signs mean, by linking them to pictures of actual road conditions)
traffic sign out line, birds-eye view, animated depiction of the traffic sign just presented, color
traffic sign, color
animated depiction of traffic sign just presented, color
traffic sign, railroad crossing, color
animated depiction, color, railroad crossing
CU traffic light, changing colors
sign that reads, "school ahead, drive carefully"
young girl walking down sidewalk, wearing dress, carrying books in right hand, girl runs out into street right in front of moving car.
busy street intersection (city)
01:39:38:00 - 01:40:01:00
CU of traffic light, more shots of busy streets, ending with another CU of traffic light
CU man sitting in car
traffic cop blowing whistle
stopped car beginning to move, profile shot of man driving car
busy street, lots of traffic and people
over shoulder shot man driving car down street, man walks out in front of it almost being hit. Driver begins to yell at pedestrian for walking out in front of him, he walks toward driver, looks and realizes he is looking at himself, begins to laugh, as well as driver. CU of white cartoon man laughing. Man walks away from car turns laughing, waves hand, turns and walks away.
Birds eye view cars driving down road separated by lines
over shoulder shot of man driving down street, he is listening to car radio; woman's voice is singing "I'm in the mood for love." White cartoon man appears, points to upper right hand corner, woman head than appears singing, man disappears, other white cartoon man appears pops circle containing woman's head, making loud noise, forcing driver to stop fast just avoiding hitting another car.
CU back of man's neck, sitting in car.
Animated characters "Reckless Rudolph" and "Sensible Sam" are in boxing ring. "Reckless Rudolph" on left begins to spin around, knocked out. Large hand comes into picture counting # 1-10, each time a statement is shown.
1 Always be courteous
2 Know how to drive
3 Both hands on wheel
4 Watch traffic signs
5 Keep a safety margin
6 Use hand signals
7 Keep right
8 Keep sober
9 Stop when angry
10 Obey all laws
"Sensible Sam" boy being declared winner of boxing match
General Motors Corp. (sponsor) Safety education Safety films Traffic safety Animation Surrealism Fantasy Good versus evil Characters (animated) Driving Automobiles Driving (point-of-view)